News - Press Releases
|18th TDF: Press Conference - Arto Halonen (White Rage), Simon Stadler and Catenia Lermer (Ghostland), Christophe Magdy Saber (The Valley of Salt), Stavroula Toska (Beneath the Olive Tree) (3/18/2016)|
18th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival
Images of the 21st Century
11-20 March 2016
WHITE RAGE / GHOSTLAND /
THE VALLEY OF SALT / BENEATH THE OLIVE TREE
As part of the 18th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, directors Arto Halonen (White Rage), Simon Stadler and Catenia Lermer (Ghostland), Christophe Magdy Saber (The Valley of Salt) and Stavroula Toska (Beneath the Olive Tree) attended a press conference on Friday March 18th, 2016.
In the film The Valley of Salt, Christophe Magdy Saber recounts the story of his family, placed in a climate of political fluidity in his homeland, Egypt. The young director returns home to Cairo from his studies to see his family for the first time after the beginning of the revolution. At exactly this time, his parents, who are prosecuted for their Christian beliefs, begin to receive threatening messages. “My parents didn't have any connection to cinema and that is why it seemed so strange I was filming them. To some degree they were irritated, however, they did open up and confided things that they couldn't have told me before. Especially my father felt very uneasy and he was constantly telling me to watch out and not create any further problems. Even the distributors of the film suggested we should exclude Egypt”. With regard to the present political and social situation in Egypt, the director pointed out: "My family is still being threatened but not from the same places. The situation, though still chaotic, is certainly better than it was before the revolution.”
White Rage by Arto Halonen focuses on the critical social issue of school bullying, through the story of a man who went through dreadful experiences and was planning his vengeance for years. We never see him in person during the film, but we hear his voice. "I discovered Lauri, the hero of my film, in an interview he had given to a Finnish magazine. This took place in 2008, after the second very serious incident of gun firing at a Finnish school. Lauri was saying that society doesn't comprehend the problem and doesn’t offer any consolation to victims like him. In the beginning, he had some reservations due to the risk of being recognized. We used his actual voice, though we distorted it a bit", the director noted. As for the documentary's impact on Finnish society, Arto Halonen reported: "The film was very warmly received. It was screened in cinema theaters and later at schools, as part of a campaign supported by the Finnish Association for Mental Health. Actually, a member of the parliament submitted a bill regarding the issue of school bullying, in an effort to change the legislation relating to the operation of schools. The interesting thing is that Lauri later on became an academic researcher and respected scientist specialized in human aggression and violence and that is precisely what makes his story unique”. As for the hero's course in real life, Arto Halonen pointed out: "Lauri feels relieved, as he can keep his rage at check. He is a realist and he’s doing fine. It is an example of how much better you can live your life when you realize what is happening inside you and take control of it.”
In her documentary Beneath the Olive Tree, Stavroula Toska travels from the United States, where her home is, to Greece, the place she was born and grew up. The film is based on secret journals that were found buried beneath an olive tree in the island of Trikeri, a place that served as a concentration camp during the Greek Civil War. The journals, buried for almost three decades, unfold the incredible stories of women who were exiled in these camps. Referring to the filming of the documentary, the director explained: "Olympia Dukakis, the film's producer, was the one who introduced me to these secret journals. It was she who wanted us to become involved with this, as it concerned her for the past 30 years”. The connection to her family's story was indeed what confused the director more: "As I came to Greece and began the research, I started asking my mother about the Civil War, but she didn't want to talk about it. Finally, she confessed to me stories about my grandmother who was politically imprisoned during the Civil War in Averof Prisons. I was shocked when I heard it, since I have never been told about this before. I’ve been working on this film for six years and each time I talk about her, I am moved by this story. From the moment I overcame my initial shock, I felt incredibly proud. Because I realized where I come from”.
The Ju/Hoansi Bushmen in Kalahari Desert, South Africa, who are not allowed to hunt anymore and need to converge with the western way of life, are the heroes of Ghostland by Catenia Lermer and Simon Stadler. “We made the film five years ago. We went to the Kalahari Desert and visited this tribe through an NGO tour. To reach their village, we covered a distance of 2.500 kilometers. They were proud so many people had visited them. Afterwards, a German NGO invited them to Europe. It was very interesting because we weren't quite observing them, as much as ourselves; they served as a mirror to our reactions. We decided to make the film in order to show their reactions when they arrive in Europe, how do they perceive our world and capitalism. The team spirit is very evident in this tribe. These people live for the present”, Simon Stadler stressed. However, their life is not easy at all. There are a lot of problems in their village, with children dying from unpropitious conditions”, Catenia Lermer added. The moral that Stadler takes with him after his contact with the African tribe is the need for collectiveness: "Only by getting together we can resolve problems. Their mentality is crystal clear: the truth lies in teamwork. In this globalized world, we can learn a lot from them. In the face of the current refugee issue, it will be useful for everyone to learn through the Ju/Hoansi. They are very warm and caring, watching over each other. Another important element that describes them is tolerance”. On this subject, Catenia Lermer added: "We have so many means of technology at our disposal, still each one of us feels lonely. For Ju/Hoansi, the most important things are family and the team. It may seem simple, but it is the truth”.